Travel in the Time of COVID

“This one goes deep”, she advised. “It’s the standard for this type of test”, the nurse said casually, my eyes watering as the oversized Q-Tip was jabbed up my right nostril. She swiftly pulled the instrument of torture from my face as my eyes continued to leak. “Ah, the sign of a test executed correctly – watery eyes”, she proclaims somewhat proudly. “The results will be emailed to you within two hours. We’re all done. Have a good day”, she stated. I thanked her, grabbed my backpack and headed to the elevator, my eyes still spouting tears. The things I do for travel.

Eighteen months ago, when I flew from Canada to Ireland, the thought of a pre-flight medical test never entered my mind. Extra paper work for travel was associated with certain countries that had long processes to obtain visas (think Russia, for example). The only vaccine requirement I had hear of was Yellow Fever and that was only to specific destinations. All other vaccines were only recommended. Today, as the pandemic is still with us, it has all changed. In this post I will list what I needed to have to enter Italy from Canada and to return home. Now that I have gone through it, I do feel more confident in planning travel.

Pre-Trip & Departure:

I had decided on Italy for a few reasons. One – it’s Italy. History, food, wine, beautiful landscapes – why would I not return here? Plus there was the coin I threw into the Trevi Fountain. And finally, they opened their borders to Canadians. But what do I need to get in? Online official government sites are the “go-to”. I was also given advice by a friend who had been recently there (as well as being Italian), about what to expect and where to get some of info I needed.

Entry Requirements*:

*These were the requirements that I had to meet at the time of my trip (October 2021) based on my nationality and where I was travelling from. As travel has a continually changing landscape during the pandemic it is essential that you find the correct information for you trip and where you are coming from. Government websites are best to get up-to-date information. I found this site helpful to see if you may enter Italy and what is required.

  • Valid passport
  • European Digital Passenger Locator Form (dPLF)
    • Is used for contact tracing
    • Register online and fill in your travel details – takes about 10 minutes
    • A QR Code is emailed to you – print it and/or save to your phone
    • Present when required
  • A negative Covid test (molecular or antigen) up to 48 – 72 hours prior to entering (pending which test you take)
    • I had an antigen test done at the airport several hours prior to take-off
  • Proof of vaccination by an Italian government approved vaccine
Photo by SHVETS production on Pexels.com

Pre-flight Testing:

My flight to Rome was out of Toronto. After Italy I planned to visit family in Ontario. With that in mind I decided to book my domestic flights separate from my flight to Rome and with the flight options at the time I booked, I decided it was easiest to fly from Vancouver to Toronto and overnight there. Which is why I decided to be tested at Toronto Pearson International Airport via Switch Health. They are located at the airport at the Value Park Garage (Viscount Station) for both in-person or in-car testing. Switch Health is accessible from either terminal via the free Terminal Link Train, making it easy to get tested before your departure. My flight to Rome was in the evening so I paid and booked my antigen test for mid-day. It was so easy. I took the hotel shuttle to the terminal, hopped onto the train to the testing site (turn left once you alight), and proceeded to have my nose swabbed. I was guaranteed to have my results in 2 hours yet received them within 30 – 40 minutes, a negative result. It really was a breeze.

Had I been leaving from Vancouver I would have had my test done at the airport there, one of the pharmacies that offer them, or a commercial lab that offers testing.

At the Airport:

Once I had my hands on emailed results I was ready to go. I had checked in online the day before so I printed my boarding pass and bag tag at a kiosk, and headed to the queue for the bag drop. It was there that I had to show all my documentation. The attendant was satisfied, marked my boarding pass, and sent me on my way. Next stop was security. Once I was through I sighed and everything turned to excitement. I’m on my way to Italy!

Arrival:

Entry and Seeing Italy:

Since I had all my documentation checked in Canada I only had to present my passport at customs for entry. The sound of the stamp being pressed into my passport was welcome and I smiled all the way to the train to the city.

Being in Italy was the same as here at home in regards to presenting proof of vaccination, the wearing of masks indoors, and the physical distancing when lining up. It just happened to be more crowded there than at home. This is what I experienced:

  • MASKS
    • to be worn while indoors (shops, restaurants when not seated, tourist attractions, public transit, trains) and in large crowds (major tourist attractions even if they are outdoors. Eg. The Roman Forum).
    • Many people wore them outside as well, especially where there were crowds.
  • PROOF OF VACCINATION or NEGATIVE COVID TEST
    • This had to be presented for dining indoors, tourist attractions, regional train use (and likely in other venues such as cinema, theatre, sporting events, etc.)
    • I showed my government PDF Proof of Vaccination along with matching ID
    • My travel companion showed her EU proof
    • I encountered no problems with using my existing proof

Return:

For my flight back to Canada I needed a negative Covid PCR test taken within 72 hours of my return flight. I had learned that I could go to just about any “farmacia” (pharmacy) to be tested, however, the staff at my hostel suggested I go to a lab as some of the pharmacies may not guarantee results in English. They were kind enough to book my test for me at a lab.

Testing and Paperwork:

  • TESTING
    • PCR test was performed and results were guaranteed in 24 hours
    • results arrived in approximately 12 hours
  • ARRIVECAN APP
    • Information regarding flight and travel info must be entered into the app no sooner than 72 hours prior to departure
    • Very easy to upload
  • PROOF OF VACCINATION

Airports:

Once again I had to show my documentation at the airport when I got my boarding pass and baggage tag. These were my passport, proof of vaccination, and negative Covid PCR test. When the aircraft touched down in Toronto, embarkation took longer than previously as the government required that only 50 people deplane at at time. First it was those with connections, followed by the remaining passengers. Needless to say there was a bit of a wait. Once at customs it was the regular lineup for declarations and entry. The next queue required showing my passport to an agent who put a sticker on it (mine was green). This divided passengers into those who had to get a random Covid test and those who didn’t. I lucked out and did not need to have another eye-watering experience. Interestingly enough, I did not have to show anything from my ArriveCan app. Perhaps since I cleared everything in Italy? Regardless, it was an relatively straightforward process, aside from the seemingly never-ending queues.

Overall Experience

Aside from that it was travel as usual – amazing sites, stellar food, new discoveries, hearty laughs, and sore feet. It felt so good to be back in the world. My two weeks in Rome and the Naples area was just what I needed. Yes, there were more steps to take, however now that I know what to generally expect it puts me more at ease for travelling during these times. And stay tuned for some upcoming posts from this trip. Please feel free to comment or ask questions below. I’ll do my best to reply.

And now, where to next?

All photos, unless otherwise stated, are taken and owned by Eeva Valiharju / Wanders the World

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